Re: Prelude to the Singularity

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From: Jeff Bone (
Date: Thu Jul 27 2000 - 19:13:05 PDT

> So, what is the original content in this piece?

Well, I was kind of hoping that the perception of this whole RIAA vs.
Napster thing in terms of change curves, and casting this in a slightly
more global context of ever-accelerating change and society's ability to
absorb that were somewhat novel. Note, too, that the "good guys vs. bad
guys" spin you impart is an artifact of your own interpretation ---
while, admittedly, I do believe that, there's a completely rational
defense to be made which in essence says "change is bad for established
interests." There's not, really, any "good" or "bad" there.

> Furthermore, what proof do you have that "technologists" as a group
share the viewpoints, motives, and actions
> you ascribe to them? Who are the technologists anyway? Are they
American, white male computer programmers,
> age 16-25, or are you desrcibing a broader demographic?

Well, the proof is in the pudding. Witness Napster itself, Gnutella,
FreeNet, Publius, Fling, ZeroKnowledge, and others. So define
"technologists" as those that are already demonstrating both ability and
willingness to address this problem.

> As for the rate of technological change, I'll assert that the rate of
change was very significant from 1850-1900.
> The effect of the telegraph was far greater than the effect of the
Internet. The effect of the railroad was pervasive.
> We are still feeling the effects of industrialization. Every new
technology requires adaptations by institutions,
> laws, and society, and the Internet is no different. In fact, the
legal accommodations required to encompass
> the Internet have so far been relatively minor.

And I'll assert that you're wrong in your conclusions. While all your
facts are correct, ask yourself this question: how quickly after
invention did each of those innovations --- telegraph, railroad,
"industrialization" begin having a real, tangible impact on as large a
fraction of the world population? Considering the US alone, the
Internet has gone from little-known academic workhorse to over 50%
household penetration in the US in a *decade.* The rates of innovation,
adoption, and penetration are all increasing at an unprecedented rate,
and the rate of change of the rate of change is itself increasing. In a
sense, the base parameters of the Bass Diffusion Model are changes over

> Since software for home use is still mostly distributed on CDs in
boxes, which is more or less the same model used
> by the recording industry, why is it that the RIAA is "under attack",
but the software industry isn't?

Well, Jim, all I can say is that I think you're mistaken in asserting
that "software for home use is still distributed on CDs." I guess it
depends on your definition of software. In terms of hours of usage,
there are only one or at most two applications that most home users
spend the bulk of their time in these days: the browser and, maybe, an
e-mail client. All the rest of their "software" they use remotely, over
the Web. Aside from games and edutainment, packaged software is dying
or already dead --- and (most of) the software industry has already
accepted and even embraced this fact. The proof, again, can be clearly
seen just by peering out that ivory tower window: how many people start
companies these days with Adobe-like, or Lotus-like, or Microsoft-like,
etc. 1980's-style "we're going to make consumer software and sell if for
money" business plans?

> Furthermore, when are we going to get sick of stupid war analogies? In
real wars, people get blown up, shot at,
> civilians get killed, women are raped, there are mass migrations of
refugees, and in general massive large-scale
> disruptions of people, institutions, social structures, governments,
etc. I don't see any of these qualities being
> exhibited in the institutional interaction you're describing as a

Was the Cold War a war? Does the fact the Army know has an entire
"InfoWar Division" imply anything? Sorry if I pushed a button there,
but I guess I don't have such a narrow definition of war. In my mind
war is what happens when any two organized interests fail to come to any
sort of rational common ground and instead resort to tactics that are
damaging to the point of destruction. The RIAA has done that, and the
weapon of choice in their case is the judiciary.

> Or you could just publish this pablum.

Oh, gee, thanks Jim. What crawled up your ass?


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